Tjugo Hundra Fjorton

For all intents and purposes, 2014 was the year in which I actually moved to Sweden. It was a monumental year for more reasons than that, however. I feel as though it’s the year I discovered Europe, and began to find my voice – as a speaker, podcaster and game designer. 2014 was also the year in which I charged headlong into making games a more approachable and friendly medium, creating platforms for other people to find their voice too.

The 'Sex in Video Games' panel at Nine Worlds Geekfest 2014
The ‘Sex in Video Games’ panel at Nine Worlds Geekfest 2014. From left: Maki Yamazaki, Cara Ellison, Meg Jayanth, myself and Jenni Goodchild.

My career was effectively on hiatus through the winter until I settled down again in in January, with Global Game Jam Stockholm. It was my first Global Game Jam, and my first time meeting anyone other than friends-of-friends in Sweden. In fact, it’s hard to overstate the importance of this event for me, because it’s here I met my friend and collaborator Inger Ekman. It was also the birthplace of Mimic, and my proper introduction to Tekniska Museet – which I since became a ‘friend’ patron of.

The original 'Team Mimic' at Global Game Stockholm 2014
The original ‘Team Mimic’ at Global Game Stockholm 2014

Unfortunately I never quite got around to supporting Stockholm’s museum of technology in many ways other than financially, but we’ve since worked with them on such occasions as the launch of TjejHack, and on plans for Global Game Jam in 2015.

‘GGJSthlm 2015’ brings me full circle, as it is the second initiative to be run by Game Jam Stockholm – a förening which was founded this year by Inger, Jon Back and myself. Our goal is nothing less than the founding and running of inclusive game jams in Stockholm. This organisation cut its teeth on SETI-Jam, in October – bringing astronomers and game developers together in order to make games based on real SETI data. To our great delight, nearly half the jammers present were female.

SETI-Jam Stockholm in full flow. From left, clockwise: Stefan Andersson, Adrina Wennström, Hannes Delbeke, (scientists Saghar Asadi, Hannes Jensen & Per Calissendorff), Max Nilsson, Johann Prell and Inger Ekman.
SETI-Jam Stockholm in full flow.

I also attended a couple of game jams run by other people this year – namely Lyst Summit in København and DreamHackathon.  The former gave me my first experience with night trains, travelling from Stockholm to the Danish Capital via Malmö, and spending subsequent nights aboard the jam site – a boat moored at Christianshavn.

Play-tex
Team-mate Ida Toft (of the Copenhagen Game Collective) walking Richard Lemarchand through our Lyst Summit ‘sex toy’, “Play-tex”.

The jam itself was a surprisingly intimate experience, with a lot of emotion and frankness shared on the subject of very human ideals. I made some good friends there, and I discovered new ways to interact with and create in this medium. I also had chance to meet most (if not all) of the Copenhagen Game Collective – casting a spotlight on the fascinating work they’re doing. As someone whose experience of indie culture had been very England-centric so far, this was eye-opening to say the least.

LadyCADE came into its own this year, after having debuted in Nottingham last October.  Katie Goode and I hosted its second meetup in February, alongside the charming Animex Game festival. Later on, in July, co-founder Holly Pickering brought LadyCADE’s inaugural games showcase event to Loading Bar in London – a format we would then expand upon in October under Gamecity’s roof, with a LadyCADE arcade and packed evening social.

From the LadyCADE Summer Spectacular at Loading Bar in London, July 2014 (photo: Robin Baumgarten)
From the LadyCADE Summer Spectacular at Loading Bar in London, July 2014 (photo: Robin Baumgarten)

This idea for a women-friendly social event has grown from a word-of-mouth gathering in a Nottingham pub, into an event which can stand up on its own – not only creating a safe space for women gamers, but also showing just what it is that women games-makers are actually creating.

As we move into 2015, I’m laying the grounds for LadyCADE’s first gathering outside of Britain, and as we start to entertain concepts like funding and sponsorship, we hope to bring its format to more conferences and festivals, to keep the momentum going.

GDCE After-party Shenangigans
GDCE After-party Shenangigans

I ended up attending a lot of festivals and conferences this year, and took either LadyCADE or Mimic to many of them. The most memorable highlights for me included:

  • seeing Cara Ellison in conversation with Fullbright’s Karla Zimonja at Animex Game;
  • being interviewed by Keith Stuart and Georg Backer on Radius Festival’s livestream;
  • the wide variety of enthralling speakers at Lyst Summit;
  • meeting Reiner Knizia at Nine Worlds Geekfest;
  • hanging out with fine folks the indie scene across Europe, during GDC Europe in Köln;
  • seeing Christos Reid in conversation with Zoe Quinn on the subject of autobiographical games, at Gamecity 9.

Each one gave me something to think about, again changing the way I view this medium and the things we can do with it. I haven’t put this into meaningful action yet, but as my independent projects continue to take form, I do take reassurance and inspiration from these snapshot memories.

TjejHack: Adding Obstacle Behaviours

As the year began to wind down, so too did the events calendar (and my funds), so my efforts turned more local with the founding of TjejHack and Diversi. The former has been a challenging and rewarding opportunity to work with girls and women, of all ages and a variety of experience. There was even an occasion where I led the group in building a character profiler in Scratch – putting my rather limited Swedish language skills to the test.

The latter too has had its challenges, but of a wholly different order as the organisation works to improve games culture across Sweden, and on the international stage. Its #gamediversity petition – formed before I joined – has been written about extensively. Since I joined the steering committee, and later the board (as vice chair), the organisation has been working to connect individuals and organisations in Diversi Network, and collaborate on some very progressive schemes for 2015 (details for which I cannot divulge).

At the Diversi meetup in Stockholm (photo: Diversi)
At the Diversi meetup in Stockholm (photo: Diversi)

Working with grass-roots schemes like LadyCADE, Game Jam Stockholm and TjejHack has certainly taught me much, but a movement like Diversi demands new ways of thinking, and a much broader scope. Its (inter)national breadth and membership pushes the agenda much more towards communication.

Without actually realising it at the time, I appear to have gained a relatively broad experience of founding running charitable and creatively-minded initiatives. I look forward to seeing where this effort will take everyone who’s involved, over the course of next year. I also have this in mind as I review the abstract of a talk I pitched to GDC in San Francisco. I hope to build upon the groundwork laid this year, in which I appeared on a number of panels and recorded interviews.

So, here’s to 2014 in Sweden – far from being my most lucractive year, but probably the most progressive… and definitely the best one for travelling:

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